Fresh Air Intake System Maintenance Tips

The intake pipe provides fresh air to a furnace so it works efficiently. It also helps keep pollutants out of your indoor air. Understandably, it’s important to properly maintain the fresh air intake system. Dirt and blockages can have a profound impact on your heating system and home. To avoid potentially hazardous situations, follow these maintenance tips from the experts at Black Hills Home Services.

Cleaning the Furnace Air Intake

If the furnace vents are excessively dirty, a professional cleaning should be scheduled. A technician is more specially equipped for the job. However, it’s not impossible to clean the vents yourself. The recommended way to do so entails the following:

  • Turn off the furnace at the breaker; for an electric unit, pull the plug from the wall socket.
  • Unscrew the air vent cover and grill to see if it is dirty.
  • Clean up any dust with a vacuum cleaner; use a brush to remove debris.
  • If necessary, spray a cleaning solution, scrub thoroughly, and dry with a cloth.
  • Properly reattach the covers and grills to avoid the same problem.

Know the Signs Your Fresh Air Intake is Blocked

Visible dirt is a sign of a blockage. At the very least, air won’t flow as freely as it should. Odd sounds may come from the vents and your home may not get as warm. You may notice the electric bill has gone up as well.

Occupants of your home may also become more prone to getting sick. Blocked furnace vents can contribute to allergy symptoms, breathing difficulties, and issues such as nasal congestion, sinus infections, headaches, nausea, fatigue, coughing, and fever.

How to Find a Pipe Obstruction

First, you need to locate the intake pipe. It is usually plastic and either black or white. The location can vary depending on the type of furnace and where it’s installed. An intake pipe on the wall usually enters from near the foundation and is typically curved. If it leads to the roof, the pipe will go straight up. 

Inspecting the intake pipe requires a flashlight. Shining the light into the pipe can help you see any obstructions. Usually, you can just reach in and pull out what’s blocking the pipe. If the intake pipe is low to the ground, check for plants or debris that may be restricting airflow. Remove any debris or trim back vegetation if necessary.

Clean Away Snow and Ice

During and after a snowstorm, check the outside vent to make sure snow hasn’t built up around it. If so, remove the snow by hand. Also, check for ice underneath and scrape it away with a plastic putty knife. With a flashlight, check for ice inside the pipe and clear it out.

Install an Air Intake Screen

An air intake screen protects the vent and pipe from leaves, debris, and pests. Replace a screen that is bent or has missing parts. It’s also important to clear away any snow and ice, as it can freeze over the mesh, blocking any air from getting in.

When to Clean Your Furnace Ducts

In general, furnace ducts should be cleaned every three to five years. But it’s a good idea to check them often for issues. Failing to maintain the fresh air intake system can reduce air quality and efficiency and force your furnace to work harder. The extra strain can accelerate wear and lead to expensive repairs. It can even shorten the life of your heating system.

Schedule Maintenance with Black Hills Home Services

At Black Hills, we specialize in all types of heater maintenance and repair services. If you think your fresh air intake system requires more than a simple cleaning, our trained technicians can help. We can also maintain, inspect, or tune up your furnace. Call 888-834-7479 to request service.

Furnaces require fresh air because, like people, they need oxygen. In a furnace, oxygen is crucial for combustion to take place. A lack of oxygen decreases efficiency and can cause combustion issues that can lead to the release of carbon monoxide. A consistent supply of fresh air improves furnace performance and helps remove pollution that can cause breathing difficulties and respiratory problems.

The intake allows in fresh air from outside to prevent these issues. Connected to a vent on an outside wall, it’s usually right outside your basement, but it can be anywhere near your furnace (for an updraft furnace, it’s usually near the bottom). Tighter building codes have led to newer homes having multiple fresh air intakes to address air loss, pollution, and energy efficiency.

Installing a Furnace Intake Vent

The intake vent consists of an air duct that leads outside. Installing it correctly is crucial to achieving proper airflow; here’s a look at how to do so:

  • Choose Where to Install the Intake Hood: This should be away from the furnace, exhaust, and dryer vents from where dangerous gases could be recirculated. You’ll need to find a separate entry point somewhere in your basement.
  • Begin the Installation: To install the intake hood, first drill a hole with a hole saw. Then push a pipe to a location above where the air intake hood will go. Use screws designed for wood exteriors to secure the unit. After it is in place, seal any gaps with exterior caulking.
  • Prepare the Return Duct: Create a 6-inch hole in the return duct, adjacent to the furnace pipe, using a pair of aviation snips. Next, install a metal collar that will secure the pipe, ensuring it is stable before you continue.
  • Install the Intake Duct Line: Insert the duct between the inlet lid and the pipe at the collar. The joints fixing the duct in place must be properly secured for fresh air to circulate. Fit the joints with a crimper if a joint cut is required. For durable results, use a galvanized duct.
  • Install a Barometric Damper: Install the barometric damper directly onto the intake hood. It’s what prevents fresh air from entering the duct before the furnace starts running. During installation, the damper’s arrows should be lined up so they point at the furnace. This indicates the direction the air will flow.
  • Hang the Galvanized Duct: Choose a galvanized hanger strap with the tensile strength needed to maintain tension and tolerate temperature changes. This part must be of high quality. It needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the duct.
  • Verify the Furnace Intake is Airtight: Apply caulking to every duct joint, and use foil or other types of duct wrap to insulate the duct. Duct wrap prevents sweating in cooler weather, makes it airtight, and prevents air leakage.

Contact Black Hills Home Services for Assistance

If you need help installing or servicing a furnace intake vent, the professionals at Black Hills Home Services will be glad to assist. We’ve been successfully installing furnaces and heating systems in Olympia and Thurston County since 1993. To request service, contact us online or call 360-822-9659 today.